Let It Go (Disney song)

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"Let It Go"
Song by Idina Menzel
from the album Frozen
PublishedWonderland Music Company
ReleasedNovember 25, 2013 (2013-11-25)
Recorded
  • 2012 (piano, vocals)[1]
  • 2013 (rhythm section, orchestra)
LabelWalt Disney
Songwriter(s)
Video (film sequence)
"Let It Go" on YouTube

"Let It Go" is a song from Disney's 2013 animated feature film Frozen, whose music and lyrics were composed by husband-and-wife songwriting team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The song was performed in its original show-tune version in the film by American actress and singer Idina Menzel in her vocal role as Queen Elsa. Anderson-Lopez and Lopez also composed a simplified pop version (with shorter lyrics and background chorus) which was performed by actress and singer Demi Lovato over the start of the film's closing credits. A music video was separately released for the pop version.

The song presents the ostracized Queen Elsa, who abandons her kingdom when her uncontrollable ability to generate ice is discovered by the public. Up in the mountains, away from the perplexed townspeople, Elsa realizes that she no longer needs to hide her sole ability, and so declares herself free from the restrictions she has had to endure since childhood. She rejoices in being able to use her power freely, to let her past go. Without this hindrance she appears to have more control over her powers and creates a living snowman and a magnificent ice castle for herself. The song also includes discarding items, most notably her gloves, which her parents gave her to hold back her powers, and taking her tiara off her head and throwing it away, afterwards unraveling her braided hairstyle.

"Let It Go" reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and won both the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2014 and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2015.[2] The song gained international recognition, becoming one of the most globally recorded Disney songs, with numerous covers being recorded in different languages.[3]

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, "Let It Go" sold 10.9 million copies in 2014, becoming the year's fifth best-selling song.[4]

Use in Frozen[edit]

Background and composition[edit]

The Daily Telegraph explained that instead of the villain originally envisioned by the producers, the songwriters saw Elsa as "a scared girl struggling to control and come to terms with her gift."[5] When interviewed in January 2014 by John August and Aline Brosh McKenna, Frozen director Jennifer Lee gave her recollection of the song's conception: "Bobby and Kristen said they were walking in Prospect Park and they just started talking about what would it feel like [to be Elsa]. Forget villain. Just what it would feel like. And this concept of letting out who she is[,] that she's kept to herself for so long[,] and she's alone and free, but then the sadness of the fact [sic] that the last moment is she's alone. It's not a perfect thing, but it's powerful."[6]

"Let It Go" was the first song written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez for the film that made it in, since songs composed earlier were eventually cut.[7] The story outline they were given had a place reserved for "Elsa's Badass Song", which was what they were trying to write.[8] The duo took inspiration from the songs of the Disney Renaissance such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and various artists including Adele, Aimee Mann, Avril Lavigne (whose 2002 debut album was titled Let Go), Lady Gaga, and Carole King.[9] The song finally began to gel one day as the couple walked together from their home in Park Slope to nearby Prospect Park while they were "thinking from an emo kind of place."[10] Anderson-Lopez explained what happened next: "We went for a walk in Prospect Park and threw phrases at each other. What does it feel like to be the perfect exalted person, but only because you've held back this secret? Bobby came up with 'kingdom of isolation,' and it worked."[11] Lopez was able to improvise the song's first four lines on the spot.[12] Back at their home studio, they composed the rest of the song by alternating between improvising melodies on a piano and brainstorming lyrics on a whiteboard, and finished it within a single day.[7][11]

"Let It Go" is a power ballad in the key of A-flat major overall, but begins in the relative minor (F minor). The song is in quadruple meter, and has a fast tempo of around 137 beats per minute (allegro). The song's vocal range spans from F3 to E5.[13] Anderson-Lopez and Lopez specifically wrote the song for Idina Menzel, referring to her as "one of the most glorious voices of Broadway and an icon in musical theater." Menzel's vocal range was taken under consideration during the music's composition.[14]

Recording[edit]

For each song they created, including "Let It Go", Anderson-Lopez and Lopez recorded a demo in their studio, then emailed it to the Disney Animation production team in Burbank for discussion at their next videoconference.[15] After the film's release, Anderson-Lopez was shown an "explicitly honest" fan version of the song with very colorful lyrics, and in response, she noted that in the videoconferences she herself had used similarly candid language to describe Elsa's mindset at that point in the plot: "After a while, Chris Montan, the head of music at Disney, would be like, 'Whoa, language!'"[16] She also disclosed that Disney Animation's Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter (who served as executive producer for Frozen) was so taken with "Let It Go" that he played her original demo of the song in his car for months.[17]

Once approved, the song's piano-vocal score, along with the rest of their work for Frozen, was eventually forwarded to arranger Dave Metzger at his home studio in Salem, Oregon, who orchestrated their work into a lush sound suitable for recording by a full orchestra[18] at the Eastwood Scoring Stage on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank at the end of July 2013.[19][20] The song's vocal track was recorded separately prior to orchestration at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, with the piano track from the demo playing into Menzel's headphones.[20] That piano track, played by Lopez himself, was not re-recorded by a session musician at the orchestral recording session; it is the same piano track heard in the final mix of the song.[20]

Character rewrite and film sequence[edit]

Although unintentional, the song's composition was pivotal in the film's characterization of Elsa.[21] Although Elsa was originally written as a villain, co-directors Chris Buck and Lee gradually rewrote Elsa into one of the film's protagonists after "Let It Go" was composed.[22][23] About that, Lee later explained, "the minute we heard the song the first time, I knew that I had to rewrite the whole movie."[10] Buck further clarified: "Jen had to go back and rewrite some pages in the first act to build up to that scene..... You have to set it up well enough in advance so that when the song comes, the audience is ready for it and there's an emotional payoff."[24]

When it came to animating Elsa's scenes for the song, Lopez and Anderson-Lopez insisted on the particular detail that Elsa should slam the palace doors on the audience at the song's end, which they acknowledged was similar to the ending of the Broadway musical Sweeney Todd. Lopez explained that they wanted that feeling of how "this character doesn't need us anymore," because he had always loved that feeling "when a character just kind of malevolently looks at you and slams a door in your face," although in the final version, Elsa's facial expression ended up as more of a "sly smile".[25] According to Lopez, it was the last line at the end, "the cold never bothered me anyway," that was "our little Avril Lavigne line".[26]

On December 6, 2013, Walt Disney Animation Studios released a video of the entire "Let It Go" sequence as seen in the movie, which has over 640 million views as of March 2019 on YouTube.[27] On January 30, 2014, a sing-along version of the sequence was released and has received more than 1.7 billion views on YouTube as of March 2019,[28] and is one of the site's 50 most-viewed videos.[29]

Other languages[edit]

Besides the original English version, Disney Character Voices International arranged for Frozen to be dubbed into another 47 languages and dialects worldwide.[30][31][32][33][34] A major challenge was to find sopranos capable of matching Menzel's warm vocal tone and vocal range in their native languages.[32][33] Rick Dempsey, senior executive at Disney Character Voices International regarded the process as "exceptionally challenging", explaining, "It's a difficult juggling act to get the right intent of the lyrics and also have it match rhythmically to the music. And then you have to go back and adjust for lip sync! [It]... requires a lot of patience and precision."[35]

On January 22, 2014, Disney released a multi-language version of the "Let It Go" musical sequence, which featured vocal performances of 25 different voice actresses who portrayed Elsa in their respective dubbing versions of the film.[36][37][38] At the annual meeting of the shareholders of the Walt Disney Company on March 18, 2014 in Portland, Oregon, chairman and chief executive officer Bob Iger praised the team who did "an incredible job casting fantastic international talent so that Frozen truly belongs to the world," then showed the entire multi-language video clip of "Let It Go" to the assembled shareholders.[39] On March 31, 2014, an in-studio multi-language video of the song was released, showing singers of 25 different languages recording their versions of "Let It Go".[35][40] On April 15, 2014 a studio recording of the multi-language version was released via digital download.[41][42]

In 2015, a Hindi and an Indonesian version of the movie were aired on Disney Channel.[43][44] The Indonesian version features a translated pop version of "Let It Go", sung by the ensemble of Indonesian singers Anggun, Chilla Kiana [id], Regina Ivanova [id], Nowela and Cindy Bernadette [id]. The pop version was released as leading single of We Love Disney, Indonesia [id].[45][46]

On April 15, 2014, Walt Disney Records released a compilation album titled Let It Go: The Complete Set, with all 42 foreign-language film versions of "Let It Go" and nine end credit versions.[47][48][49]

In South Korea, the pop version of the song by Hyolyn reached number six on the Gaon Music Chart in February, followed by the film version performed by Hye Na Park [ko] charting at number 80 in March.[50][51] The Japanese versions of the song, performed in the film by Takako Matsu and in the end roll by May J., reached number 2 and 8 respectively on the Japan Hot 100 after the film's Japanese release in March 2014.[52] Matsu's version was certified million for digital downloads in Japan in May 2014, and May J.'s version platinum for 250,000 downloads.[53] May J. recorded a rearranged version of the song on her album Heartful Song Covers, which was released on March 26, 2014.[54]

Since 2013, some local TV stations have been dubbing the movie in their local languages. Namely: Abkhaz, Albanian, Arabic, Kabardian, Karachay-Balkar,[55] Persian[56] and Tagalog.[57][30]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

"Let It Go" received widespread acclaim from film critics, music critics, and audiences, with some comparing it favorably to "Defying Gravity" (also performed by Idina Menzel) from the Broadway musical Wicked.[23][84][85] The Rochester City Newspaper called it the best song of the film's soundtrack, writing; "Performed with belty gusto by Idina Menzel, it's got every element needed to be a lasting favorite. (...) Menzel should be credited for providing as much power and passion to this performance as she did in her most famous role."[84] Entertainment Weekly's Marc Snetiker described the song as "an incredible anthem of liberation"[85] while Joe Dziemianowicz of New York Daily News called it "a stirring tribute to girl power and the need to 'let go' of fear and shame".[86]

On the other hand, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of the radio show Sound Opinions criticized the song; DeRogatis labeled it "schlock", and Kot described it as a "clichéd piece of fluff that you would have heard on a Broadway soundtrack from maybe the fifties or the sixties".[87]

By spring 2014, many journalists had observed that after watching Frozen, numerous young children in the United States were becoming unusually obsessed with the film's music, and with "Let It Go" in particular.[88][89][90][91] Columnist Yvonne Abraham of The Boston Globe called the song "musical crack" which "sends kids into altered states."[92] A similar phenomenon was described in the United Kingdom,[93][94] where Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle UK, wrote of a "musical epidemic sweeping the nation, relentlessly gathering up every child ... in its cult-like grip".[95]

Passenger, the singer-songwriter who rose to fame with the 2012 hit single "Let Her Go", admitted in an August 2016 interview on The Project that his single is frequently confused with "Let It Go."[96] As a result, he "always" receives song requests for the latter, even though it is not his song.[96]

In November 2017, Chilean pop singer Jaime Ciero sued Disney, Idina Menzel, and Demi Lovato, claiming that "Let It Go" was extremely similar to his 2008 song "Volar".[97]

Perceived parallels[edit]

Some viewers outside the film industry, including one evangelical pastor[98][99][100] and commentators,[101] believe that the film is a promotion for the normalization of homosexuality, while others have argued that the character of Elsa is a representation of positive LGBT youth and the song is a metaphor for coming out.[102][103][104] The LGBT community, however, had a mixed reaction to these claims.[102] When Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee was asked about the purported gay undertones, she stated that the film's meaning was open to interpretation "I feel like once we hand the film over, it belongs to the world, so I don't like to say anything, and let the fans talk. I think it's up to them."[103] Lee added that the film's meaning was also inevitably going to be interpreted within the cultural context of being made in the year 2013.[105]

Another interpretation for the song and the movie is that they promote self-affirmation for people on the autism spectrum.[106] Co-writer Kristen Andersen-Lopez has stated that her younger brother has autistic traits and that inspired the song insofar as it deals with the concept of having a "special sibling."[107]

Accolades[edit]

"Let It Go" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 86th Academy Awards, where a shortened rendition[108] of the show-tune version was performed live by Menzel;[109][110] with the award, Robert Lopez became the 12th person, and by far the quickest (10 years), to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.[111]

Awards
Award Category Result
Academy Awards[112] Best Original Song Won
Grammy Awards[2][113] Best Song Written for Visual Media Won
Golden Globe Awards[114] Best Original Song Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards[115][116] Best Song Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society[117] Best Original Song Won
Denver Film Critics Society[118] Best Original Song Won
Satellite Awards[119] Best Original Song Nominated
Radio Disney Music Awards[120] Favorite Song from a Movie or TV Show Won
Billboard Music Awards[121] Top Streaming Song (Video) Nominated

Demi Lovato version[edit]

"Let It Go"
Demi Lovato - Let It Go.png
Single by Demi Lovato
from the album Frozen
ReleasedOctober 21, 2013 (2013-10-21)
FormatDigital download
Recorded2012[1]
GenrePop rock
Length3:47
LabelWalt Disney
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Demi Lovato singles chronology
"Made in the USA"
(2013)
"Let It Go"
(2013)
"Neon Lights"
(2013)
Music video
"Let It Go" on YouTube

The decision to release a single for "Let It Go" was made after the song was written and was presented to Disney. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez selected American singer and former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato, who also appears on Disney's Hollywood Records roster, to cover the song on the soundtrack album.[15] It was included in the deluxe edition of Demi. Lovato's version was officially covered in nine other languages, eight of which are included into "Let It Go the Complete Set":[122] French, Indonesian,[45] Italian, Japanese, Kazakh, Korean, Malaysian, Mandarin Chinese (China's version), Spanish (Latin American version) and Russian. The Indonesian pop version was released as leading single of We Love Disney, Indonesia.[45][46]

Background, release, and composition[edit]

Anderson-Lopez said that Lovato was chosen because of the singer's own personal life; "She had a past that she's pretty open about that is similar to Elsa's journey of letting a dark past and fear behind and moving forward with your power."[14] Lovato indeed identified herself with the song's context, stating "It's so relatable. Elsa is finding her identity; she's growing into who she is and she's finally accepting her own strength and magical powers. Instead of hiding it, like she's done all her life, she's letting it go and embracing it."[128]

Lovato's cover version was released as a single by Walt Disney Records on October 21, 2013.[129] While Menzel's version is performed in the key of A-flat major[13] and a tempo of 137 beats per minute, Lovato's version is performed in the key of G major and a tempo of 140 beats per minute, with her vocal range spanning between G3 and E5.[130] In this version, the line "Let the storm rage on" is omitted from the chorus, along with its unusual accompanying chord progression, and an extra "Let it go" is substituted in its place.

Music video[edit]

The music video was released on November 1, 2013.[131] It was directed by Declan Whitebloom.[132] The video opens with Lovato sitting on the floor of an abandoned mansion lined with marble floors and dotted with furniture covered with white sheets. During the video she is wearing a black period-inspired cloak dress. She can then be seen playing a grand piano. The scenes inside the mansion are interwoven with images and clips from Frozen. Towards the end of the song, Lovato re-emerges wearing a cream-colored gown and the room seems to be new again, with the sheets thrown away revealing brightly embellished furniture.[133]

Live performances[edit]

Lovato performed the song on several occasions. Lovato first performed the track at the 2013 Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade.[134] On November 13, 2014, she performed the song at the 2014 Royal Variety Performance.[135] The song was also a part of Lovato's setlist for The Neon Lights Tour and the Demi World Tour. On May 2015, she performed the song for 2nd Indonesian Choice Awards.